Trapped with all escape routes blocked

7th June 1996 at 01:00
Linda Hooper digs deep to find a way out of her primary deputy headship. I'm in a trap. I enjoy the time I spend at work and am well paid but I've been in the job too long. Tunnels once lead from it to exciting horizons but most of them have been blocked or collapsed. There is only one left and few are brave enough to take it.

The trap is deputy headship in a primary school. When I first took up this post 10 years ago the escape routes were varied - secondment, advisory teaching, teacher-training, headship.

Secondment went fuzzy at the edges and finally disappeared. Local management of schools has resulted in a drastic reduction in advisory posts. There are fewer jobs in teacher training as students spend more time in school with mentors. Their tutors have a changed role, which is now heavily research-oriented and which makes direct transfer from school teaching more difficult.

The main tunnel left leads to headship. Why don't I take it? Because I can't find a model of a happy primary headteacher.

They are all stressed, overworked and overburdened. Few make it to retirement age. I know only one primary head to make it to 60. She's the sort of woman you'd have stuck with in Colditz.

Recently I was called for interview in a two-teacher village primary. It looked idyllic as it nestled in the countryside, surrounded by an orchard of cherry trees in bloom. The pupils were delightful with none of the problems inner city life can bring. The parents were supportive and there was plenty of money for improvement. Yet the previous teacher had retired on the grounds of ill-health, burdened by a job which demanded he teach almost full-time across four year groups and nine subject areas, each with a changing battery of prescriptions from the national curriculum, as well as coping with an administration as rigorous as that of a bigger school. It's only the figures which are smaller.

Although the post had been advertised nationwide and reached teachers incarcerated in industrial landscapes and inner city violence, only seven had applied. Four had been invited for interview. Two showed.

The governors dropped a bombsehell they had wisely not mentioned in the ad. OFSTED was to inspect the next term. The interviews went ahead but the governors decided not to appoint. As I wandered away through the cherry trees I pondered my escape attempt. Although I would now recircle the trap, I was like the retiring head, relieved.

Linda Hooper writes under a pseudonym. She lives in the West Country

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